Alex Petrovic said he didn’t concern himself with the lack of movement among Florida’s defensemen this season as he toiled in the minors.
The Panthers have had few injuries along their blueline, and during times they did either Colby Robak was around as the seventh defenseman or veteran Shane O’Brien was called up.
On Wednesday, Petrovic finally got the call saying the Panthers wanted him back.
“We’re worried about our success down there, and you do anything you can to win down there,” Petrovic said. “The guys have been doing good up here, and when your name is called you come up and run with it.”
One of the team’s top prospects, Petrovic was brought up to replace the struggling Dylan Olsen.
After a few weeks of turnovers and soft defensive play, Olsen was placed on waivers Thursday and assigned to take Petrovic’s place in San Antonio on Friday after clearing waivers.
“It’s a tough situation for the kid right now,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said.
For now, the job belongs to Petrovic. It’s up to him whether or not he keeps it.
“I’ve been working hard all year, and we have a really good team down there,” said Petrovic, 22, a second-round draft pick in 2010 who played 13 games with the Panthers over the previous two seasons.
“This just shows the direction we’re going. Both teams have better records than last year. I’m just real excited.”
Petrovic had a solid game in Florida’s 3-2 victory over Columbus on Thursday night, getting a secondary assist on the game-winning goal.
“If he keeps playing like that, he’ll be fine,” Gallant said.
“But he’s been here before. If that was his first game, it would have been different. He’s had a taste of it and knows the guys. We haven’t had a lot of injuries and — knock on wood — we haven’t had many injuries on the back end.”
With Shawn Thornton activated off injured reserve and Brandon Pirri back in the lineup after scoring against the Red Wings on Tuesday night, the Panthers benched Scottie Upshall and Tomas Fleischmann against the Blue Jackets.
Fleischmann has sat the past two games and Upshall two of the past three. Both are unrestricted free agents after this season and are thought to be on the trading block.
With Olsen back in San Antonio, Florida’s roster sits at 22, but either Vincent Trocheck or Rocco Grimaldi could be recalled to bring it to the max.
▪ The Panthers have three games in the next four days, facing two teams (the Rangers and Islanders) currently in a playoff spot.
Saturday night’s opponent is the Devils, a team that traditionally has owned the Panthers over the years.
“It’s going to be tough,” Gallant said. “They’re all good teams, they’re all battling. New Jersey isn’t where it usually is, but they are still a tough team.”
Saturday: Panthers at Devils
When/Where: 7 p.m.; Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560
Series: New Jersey leads 50-27-7
Noteworthy: The Devils spoiled Florida’s home opener with a 5-1 win in October.